At this point we're familiar with the majority of what's forthcoming in the cinematic year – sequels, reboots and more recognised brand tie-ins. Though it's disappointing that Hollywood is increasingly more risk averse when it comes to original fare, last year's Mad Max: Fury Road showed us that it's more than possible to craft something genuinely new and thrilling within the confines of a pre-existing world. Hopefully 2016's offerings will skew more towards Mad Max on the reboot/sequel scale and less Fantastic Four (ouch).
2016 Movies Preview
Captain America: Civil War (April 29) / Doctor Strange (Oct 28)
The franchise juggernaut that won't stop chugging, the Marvel Cinematic Universe enters its 'Phase Three' with the third Captain America film, Civil War. Steve Rogers finds himself at odds with his Avengers compatriot Tony Stark over governmental plans to restrict superhuman activity following the mass collateral damage inflicted during the events of Age of Ultron.
2015's MCU output wasn't so impressive – Ant-Man was one of the least successful properties Marvel have put out and Age of Ultron was eminently forgettable, at least compared to the first team-up. Civil War seems to be throwing everything into the pot, with a massive ensemble (including, significantly, the first appearance of Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther) and potentially status quo-busting storyline. Winter Soldier's Joe and Anthony Russo return to take up directorial duties, hopefully producing something a little more engrossing than Utron.
October's Doctor Strange introduces mysticism into the MCU, telling the origin story of Stephen Strange, a neurosurgeon who searches for a new path in life after a car accident ruins his career. Strange enlists some high calibre acting talent (Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetal Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton), and its subject matter could find it being a Guardians of the Galaxy-style departure from the earthbound travails of Civil War. However the first preview photos make Cumberbatch look not a little like a grown-up BBC Merlin in his wizard get-up.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (March 25) / Suicide Squad (Aug 5)
The follow-up to 2013's relentlessly dour Man of Steel, Dawn of Justice attempts to tackle the age old geek conundrum – who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman? Excitement has got to be dampened by Zack Snyder's previous output, and some perplexing casting - Ben Affleck instantly adds smarmy smugness to the caped crusader, and Jesse Eisenberg playing Lex Luthor as an adolescent in the grips of some sort of febrile mania.
Suicide Squad introduces a rogues gallery of villains who are recruited by a shadowy governmental agency to undertake dangerous missions. It's the first attempt to round out a DC film universe in the same vein as the MCU, but with a significantly darker edge – however some argue the 12A/PG-13 rating will de-fang what should be an unhinged villainous romp.
Deadpool (Feb 10) / X-Men: Apocalypse (May 19) / Gambit (Oct 7)
The X-Men win the 'Franchise Overexposure' award as it releases three separate entries in one calendar year. First up is Deadpool, following the wise-cracking mercenary played by Ryan Reynolds. With its cheeky advertising campaign and the redband trailer showing unvarnished, unsanitised violence, it seems to be staying true to the core of the character and leaning hard into its non-family friendly rating.
Apocalypse is released in May, starring The Force Awakens' Oscar Isaac as the titular first mutant who uses his godlike powers in an attempt to destroy humanity. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender return as newly bald Professor X and Magneto, along with teens such as Game of Thrones' Sophie Turner playing Muppet Babies versions of X-Men's most famous ensemble characters (Jean Grey, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Storm).
Gambit has yet to be begin production but stars Channing Tatum as the red-eyed rogue. I imagine at this point in the year we may all be a little fatigued of X-Men and assorted overpowered individuals, and so this is likely to come and go with as little fanfare as the Wolverine origin films.
The Revenant (Jan 15)
Alejandro González Iñárritu swept the 2015 Oscars with Birdman and got right back to business filming The Revenant. Leonardo DiCaprio plays frontiersman Hugh Glass who has to survive in the wilderness of Montana after being left for dead following a bear attack. This film has had much made of the gruelling process of the production – freezing temperatures, remote locations, the restrictions of shooting with the natural light, on-set flare-ups – but what matters is the output, and critics have called it “riveting” and “visceral”.
Creed (Jan 15)
The newest addition to the Rocky series, Creed follows the son of Rocky's former opponent/friend Apollo Creed as he attempts to pursue a career in boxing. Though 2006's Rocky Balboa was surprisingly decent, no one was particularly clamouring for a seventh film, and audiences may have been inclined to dismiss this. However, mirroring the underdog tale of the original, Creed has garnered an overwhelmingly positive critical response in the US and has been rewarded with awards contention. Director Ryan Coogler is now apparently in talks to direct Black Panther for Marvel.
Bone Tomahawk (Feb 19)
The second Kurt Russell-featuring grizzly western of 2016 – the first of course being Quentin Tarantino's long gestating, critically divisive 'Hateful Eight' – Bone Tomahawk follows a group of men travelling deep into the wilderness on the track of a marauding cannibal tribe who have abducted one of their wives. Stateside buzz makes it sound atmospheric, unbridled, brutal and bloody.
Hail, Caesar! (March 4)
After the elegiac Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen Brothers swing back into zany comic mode with this '50s Hollywood set tale of a massive movie shoot derailing when star Baird Whitlock is kidnapped by a mysterious organisation. Featuring an all-star cast including, but not limited to, Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Christopher Lambert (!?) and Dolph Lundgren (!!??), this looks like unrepentantly good fun.
Anomalisa (March 11)
A new Charlie Kaufman film is always going to be worth paying attention to – the writer behind Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Synecdoche, New York consistently brings something inventive and unconventional to the table. Anomalisa follows Michael (David Thewlis), an unhappy man on a business trip, who makes a connection with a woman he meets (Jennifer Jason Leigh) – the Kaufman twist – working with animator Duke Johnson, it's all filmed in beautifully rendered stop-motion.
Warcraft (June 3)
Based on the popular game franchise, the world of Azeroth is brought to life with an epic battle between orcs and humans. Duncan Jones has shown a capable directorial hand with his features Moon (great) and Source Code (less great) but the first trailer for Warcraft gives off a faint whiff of turkey. The effects are clearly unpolished - hopefully the June release date gives them a little more time to work on them, although it can't help with the dodgy Sunday teatime telly-style costuming.
Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24)
Twenty years after the events of the first film, a new alien threat menaces the earth. The first movie was a phenomenally successful and enjoyable popcorn film, but did anyone really ask for a sequel? Most of the elements have been reassembled for this second go-round, but Will Smith reportedly asked for too much money and his character was subsequently killed off, making way for Hemsworth the lesser to step in as the lead. Not a great substitution. It all rests on Goldblum's sturdy shoulders now.
Ghostbusters (July 15)
The reboot that launched a thousand whiny internet screeds, Ghostbusters has already had an unfair backlash simply for daring to be greenlit. As the only possible blockbuster of this year with a majority female cast, it's pretty much determined to be thinkpiece fodder for the rest of 2016. Thankfully, with a solid roster of SNL alums (plus the on form Melissa McCarthy), a director with proven comedic chops, and a host of cameos, Ghostbusters should shoulder the burden with aplomb.
Star Trek Beyond (July 22)
With JJ Abrams busy in a galaxy far, far away, Justin Lin steps in to helm the third instalment of the Star Trek reboot series. Responsible for revivifying the Fast and the Furious flicks, Lin is a masterful director of action and expert handler of ensemble dynamics. Along with fresh cast additions including the always impressive Idris Elba and Kingsman's Sofia Boutella, this could be an improvement on the disappointing Star Trek Into Darkness. All that said, this first trailer looks a bit ropey, but co-screenwriter/star Simon Pegg claims it's a misrepresentation of what the film is actually about. We'll see come July.
Rogue One (Dec 16)
Now that The Force Awakens has wholeheartedly rekindled our Star Wars love, Rogue Onecomes along to take the edge off our wait for Episode VIII. The first of the Star Wars Anthology films branching off from the main series, Rogue One is, as is to be expected, still shrouded in secrecy but is rumoured to be set before A New Hope, focusing on a rebel group's attempt to steal the plans for the Death Star. Directed by Gareth Jones of Monsters and Godzilla fame, it has a diverse cast including Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker, with Felicity Jones seemingly taking lead character duties.
Assassin's Creed (Dec 26)
Could this possibly be the first legitimately good video game film? Admittedly there's not a lot of competition to be had in the arena, but Assassin's Creed comes with great bona fides: an interesting and talented upcoming director (Justin Kurzel of Snowtown and 2015's Macbeth) and genuinely good actors (Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Michael K Williams).
Story of Your Life (TBA, expected winter)
Denis Villeneuve has been reliably putting out stylishly maintained thrillers for a few years now (Prisoners, Enemy, last year's Sicario) and is about to embark on his next big project, the delayed Blade Runner sequel. But first he's easing into the sci-fi genre with Story of Your Life, an adaptation of an award-winning short story about aliens landing on the earth and the linguist (Amy Adams) who attempts to communicate with them and decipher their intentions alongside Avengers Jeremy Renner. It should be released at the tail end of the year – see it and form an opinion on whether he's the right man to take up Ridley Scott's reins.